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What is the best career for me? (clue: I have the answer, and it's easier than you think)

Updated: Jan 22, 2020

When I left high school, I didn’t take a very long term view of my career – I wanted to get a degree and I wanted the independence of being away from home, so I found an organisation that provided both and joined the military!

Many years later I have found my career ‘zone’ but perhaps a bigger picture approach earlier on would have got me here sooner…

Now, as a career coach for students, I see many mistakes being made by high school students (and their parents) as they search out their best fit career. Exploring career options can be a stressful time for a student and their parents – there is a fear of the unknown, parents feel out of their depth as careers and the job market have changed a lot since they left school, and there is the anxiety of making a bad decision and the impact that this could have.

Lessened self-esteem, peer and parental pressure, feeling lost and alone in finding a career path are concerns that students often express to me, and I know that as a parent, many parents also feel concerned and uncertain about how best to support their child.

It’s a minefield trying to step through the career search process, trying to give the best advice to your child and not knowing how to take the next step.

I’ve made many mistakes with my own teenage children, as I navigated the career search process – I imposed my ideas, didn’t listen to their views and generally thought I knew better. After all, how could I advertise myself as a career coach when I couldn’t master the skills with my own children?

Over time, I reflected on my approach and pushed my needs aside. I vowed to listen, REALLY listen, to my children and what they were saying, using the information in their career search report to facilitate the discussion.

Now, having worked with thousands of students across NZ, there are mistakes I see repeated again and again. If we can confront the paradigms and well-meaning yet biased thinking we use in dealing with our children's career search, then we can do a better job of supporting them through this crucial time.

Here are some of the statements and ideas that consistently get expressed by the students I am working with:

“I want to go to University but I’m not sure what to do, so I will just major in XYZ subject as it was my favourite at high school.” While high school provides a good range of subjects, it doesn’t compete with the range available at tertiary institutes, so don’t limit your choice of major – see what possibilities your career profile throws up and be open to new paths!

“All my friends are doing First Year Health Science at Otago Uni, so I might as well do it too.” It can be tempting to go where your friends are but this ignores your uniqueness and limits your options – and could lead to heartache and low self-esteem if you don’t get selected into a programme after first year. Real friends will stay your friends, no matter what career path or tertiary institute you choose.

“Most of my family are in farming, so they want me to do the same.” This expectation puts the family’s needs first, and doesn’t identify if farming REALLY is interesting to you as a career. You owe it to yourself to explore your options, and a career profile will easily show you if farming is your BEST fit.

“I’m sick of study so I will just take a gap year.” The 3 years of focus needed for NCEA can be a bit of a grind, so a gap year could allow you to have a break from study and gather your focus in preparation for tertiary studies etc. But this only works if the gap year is structured, with a clear goal. To avoid the gap year turning into a gap decade, the career profile clearly identifies if this is an option that needs to be explored.

“Dad says I can’t go wrong with getting qualified in a trade.” On the larger country-wide scale, skilled tradespeople are needed. But at the individual level, getting qualified in a trade isn’t suitable for everyone. Is it a career option that would suit you? Well, your career profile will highlight this, so you could pursue an internship or trade training course.

“I just need to earn some money so I’m taking a job in the family business.” There is nothing wrong with getting work experience and a bit of spending money through working part-time in your family firm, but turning this into a full-time gig isn’t always the best idea – it makes it hard to move into another organisation without the impression that you got favoured at the family business, and sometimes your expectations of other organisations is coloured by your time in the family firm. Explore the pros and cons of this with your career coach.

So what should I do to identify my best career and study options?

The best thing you can do is to get someone objective to facilitate the career exploration process, as this allows you to step back and be more realistic and unemotional about your options. That's where I can step in and help, as I don't have a horse in this race, I am just using facts and the science of work to help you. No hidden agendas, no talking about your feelings.

I use a simple process - a powerful online career search questionnaire aimed specifically at students and young adults (suitable from age 16) and an empowering coaching session (via Skype or in person) to explore the results and get you excited about your future!

Here's where to find out more and book the package online!

Making a poor decision about your career path doesn’t set you up well for your happiness or for allowing the world to see your genius. And you deserve to be seen.


So, the answer to the question "What is the best career for me?" is:

What your career search report tells you. It's as simple and as powerful as that.

All you have to do is be open to listening to the information.

Hi I'm Tracey Beard, the Chief Encouragement Officer at Career Matters. I believe that students and young adults need better support in exploring their career and tertiary study options, so I'm using powerful contemporary tools to do this, along with 1:1 coaching with the student and their parents. You can contact me on Facebook @careermattersnz, or you at

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